Say goodbye to roller-coaster drops and rear-enders-the state's planning to reconfigure a significant section of Route 139 where it intersects with Valley Road and School Ground Road.
The project crosses town lines between Branford and North Branford at Valley Road. (To see the plans and view other project documents, visit www.zip06.com and click on this story.)
The $3.3 million plan calls for road crews to move in during the spring of 2013 and finish the job by fall 2013. Ninety percent of the cost will be federally funded and 10 percent state-funded.
"As of right now, we're moving forward because it's a project that's funded," said Matthew Vail, project engineer.
On Jan. 19, Vail and other Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives came to Branford's Canoe Brook Senior Center to give a public informational meeting on the project.
In addition to widening a portion of Route 139 and Valley Road, the state project will extend into School Ground Road and is expected to dovetail with a Town of Branford project to replace an elderly, narrow bridge on the town-owned section of the road.
"We've been notified of the bridge improvements [and] we're anticipating being in construction the same year, [so] not only design, but traffic impact will be coordinated," said Vail.
In explaining the need for the changes to Route 139, Vail reviewed traffic studies from a three-year period (2006 to 2008) during which 20 motor vehicle accidents with six injuries occurred between Marbar Street (the last Branford street before Route 139 intersects with School Ground Road) and Valley Road.
Seventeen of the accidents occurred at the School Ground Road intersection. Eleven of those were rear-end type accidents.
The plan calls for widening the north side of Route 139 throughout the project limits, allowing for 11-foot-wide lanes with four-foot-wide shoulders. The project will add an exclusive left-turn-only lane at School Ground Road and install a three-way traffic light at that intersection as well.
Another significant change will affect the Y-shaped intersection at Valley Road, set hard against a curve on Route 139. Currently, vehicles cut to either side of a center island to enter/exit the steep slope of Valley Road, sitting at a significantly lower level than Route 139.
Vail said the project will "T-up" the intersection by eliminating the central island and increasing the road by nine feet at the shoulder, allowing for a T-shaped intersection. While current use allows two-way traffic on both sides of the "Y" intersection, once work is completed there will be "one lane going in and one lane coming out," said Vail.
In addition, the steep approach will be eliminated by raising the vertical alignment of Valley Road to match the grade on Route 139. Plans call to widen Route 139 at the intersection, allowing south-bound vehicles to by-pass traffic turning left onto Valley Road.
Because the project involves road widening, changes to slope, some rock removal, and installing drainage and sedimentation control systems, the state will require rights of way acquisitions along 13 properties within the project limits, said Douglas Hummel, DOT rights of way coordinator for the project.
No families or businesses will be displaced by the construction, Hummel said. Any property owners involved will be sent a letter notifying them of the impending impact. The state will then register a property evaluation and "make an offer" to the property owners, said Hummel.
"Owners can get their own appraisal of the property," which will be compared with the state's assessment, added Hummel.
He said the state has the right to take the property by eminent domain if necessary, but that's not "a hammer to hit over your head," but rather a "method to go forward and acquire the property rights" while the state and property owner "re-look" the offer.
"We can work it out," said Hummel.
At the public information meeting, members of a sparsely populated audience raised a few questions to clarify what had been discussed. No objections were raised by abutting property owners. Public comments from the meeting, as well as those sent to the DOT by Feb. 18, will be taken into consideration.
Written comments for the record on State Project No. 98-103 should be emailed to email@example.com or sent to: Mr. Scott A. Hill, P.E., Manager of State Design, Dept. of Transportation P.O. Box 317546 Newington, CT 06131-7546. Must be postmarked by Friday, Feb. 18. Be sure to note State Project number 98-103 as well as your name, address, telephone number, and the date.